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Funding Research for the Future

UNC Department of Ophthalmology created the Carolina Eye Research Institute to build on the strength of its current team of clinicians and researchers, as well as its collaborative relationships both inside and outside of the department. This dynamic Institute will lead the way in discovering new treatments, delivering innovative methods to restore sight, and performing thoughtful clinical trials that confirm the effectiveness of our discoveries.

Who Benefits

The research we are performing has the potential to profoundly influence and impact ophthalmic science, medicine, patient care, and the education for several future generations of physicians and scientists. Advances in synthetic biology, genetic technology, computer and biological engineering have accelerated the pace of discovery. These applied scientific successes expand the realm of possibility for millions of sight-challenged people around the globe, turning laboratory discoveries into treatment and cures.

Four areas will need funding to further CERI:

Transformative Research – $25 million

The University has committed to this effort to seize on advances in research that have revolutionized synthetic biology. To that end, UNC Ophthalmology is combining disciplines including biotechnology, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, biophysics, computer engineering, and genetic engineering to find pathways for disease management and cures for blinding and degenerative eye disease. Funding for transformative research will establish endowments, provide salary support to a research director who will seek public and private grants for support, and galvanize collaboration between UNC researchers in a variety of disciplines.

Innovative Clinical Research – $7 million

CERI is establishing a Clinical Trials Unit that will manage proprietary trials of our innovative therapies for eye disease and provide a host site for promising new treatments from industry and institutions around the world. We have active clinical trials in retinal disease, glaucoma, pediatric diseases, and dry eye syndrome and will soon expand our portfolio to include gene therapy for corneal diseases. We have strong relationships with the FDA and anticipate navigating the approval process with the support of UNC infrastructure and outside advisors.

Training Programs – $10 million

One of the missions of a major research university like UNC Chapel Hill is to train the next generation of clinicians and scientists. UNC Ophthalmology has 12 residents, four fellows, and numerous graduate and post-graduate students we are training to perform clinical care and research. Many of these positions are unfunded. Endowments will provide enduring stipends for these trainees.

Eye Care for the Underserved – $3 million

The University of North Carolina has long been a provider of care and treatment to many of our most vulnerable citizens. The need for these services is ever present, locally and abroad. UNC Ophthalmology physicians, residents and fellows consistently provide care in our clinics, through local community events, and through partnerships with organizations such as the Lions Club. Our faculty visit sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean several times each year to provide eye care and surgical teaching to local ophthalmologists. Nearly 2/3 of the blind in these countries are women–we know that working to eliminate cataract blindness in these regions allows individuals to work, improves their overall well-being and that of their families.

Galvanizing the Effort

As we move forward to establish the Carolina Eye Research Institute, we seek partners to invest in these efforts. Our goal to raise $45 million will provide funding now and in the future for faculty researchers, fellowships, lab support staff, training activities and equipment. It will also position the Institute to take advantage of business opportunities, interface with industry, and support nascent startup activities.

Through these efforts, we maintain our commitment to serve all who need our help, including those who cannot afford quality eye care and treatment, locally and globally. Your support will make a difference, now and in the future.

All gifts make a difference—make your contribution today.

For more information on any of the opportunities listed above, contact Susan Ervin at 919-537-3762 or by e-mail at